Tag Archives: War

Obama accepts Nobel Peace Prize … and the moral necessity of war?

barack_nobel_prize

Obama accepted his Nobel Peace Prize, and did it with a rather unusual defense of just war. Following is an excerpt:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak –nothing passive – nothing naïve – in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

The rest of the speech is online here (and a billion other places). I thought it was a very astute distinction between the role of social critic (MLK, Ghandi, Bobby) and the moral obligations of a head of state.

Thoughts?

iChat Tagline Wars

I’m outing two Addison Road regulars here, including our respected founder.

Everyone’s familiar with iChat, right? Oh, just the cool kids? Ok. Great. For the rest of you, iChat is the mac native version of AOL Instant Messenger, but.. well… you know… much better.

One of the things that has become a mainstay for people who operate much of their life online is the all important status message. It’s a little text window just below your name that tells people how you’re feeling, what you’re doing, or if you’re not there. When you sign onto the program, you get your buddy list, complete with their status lights, (green or red) and you have a pretty good idea about with whom you might or might not chat.

Many of mine are my favorite movie quotes, like, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” or, “NOBODY STEPS ON A CHURCH IN MY TOWN!” Currently, it’s set to, “I’m blogging about you right now.”

Well, this past Sunday, as I engaged in my 2nd service ritual of taking a moment to catch my breath in my office during the message, (which, music pastors of the world, is only acceptable if you’ve sat for the first one… I feel very strongly about this) and I noticed that Matty’s status indicator was green and read: “I hate you. You know who you are.”

Now, perhaps it’s just that I’m in the headspace that I’m in, but my first thought was, “Is it me?” So, of course, I typed that.

“No,” the bubble says, “You’d know.”

LOL. I can hear the preacher winding down and I sign off.

Flash forward to today (Tuesday), and his status message is the same. Now, again, perhaps it’s just where I’m at, but again I start to wonder… “Wow. I wonder if Matt had some client that screwed him out of money or something. I hope everything’s alright…” I hit him again.

“So who do you hate?”

“Mike Lee. He knows why.”

The all important other-person-is-typing indicator flashes onto the screen and then the bubble that represents a person whom I have known half of my life and lived with longer then anyone outside my wife or family says…

“His tagline read, ‘Dance monkey dance,’ so I changed mine to, ‘I’m not your monkey,’ and then I came back to work and his read, ‘Matt is my monkey,’ and well… it all sort of went downhill from there.”

I had walked headfirst into a tagline war.

Ladies and gentlemen, between them, Mike and Matty are respectable, upstanding members of society. They both earn good livings doing things are legal and that they enjoy and at which they are talented. They are each married, and have 3.3 children between them. They also have been engaged in an alpha-male feces-slinging contest since the moment they laid eyes upon one another about a decade ago. It’s a brave new world, but some things never change.

I love my friends.

Since we’ve gotten all personal this week, I’ll take it a step further. I’m on AOL instant messenger like… all the time. chadapu is my screen name. Yes, that screen name dates all the way back to college, when the tubes were new. And smaller.

Put me on your buddy list, if you like. I know that there are about a hundred people who read this blog via feedburner, and I know we don’t have that many friends. I’d be very interested to know who you are, and where you’re from, and why you like hanging out here. Feel free to interrupt my day. If I can, I’ll get all chatty.

Maybe someday we’ll have a tagline war.

The Rage of Amos

I’m reading through Amos right now in The Bible Podcast – I don’t think I’ve ever used “Mr. Angry Voice” so much in one sitting than reading through those 9 little chapters. You know that thing that God does where he gives himself different names depending on which aspect of his nature he wants to express? Yeah, in Amos, he calls himself “The God Who Commands Armies”, and he has his rage on, for sure.

Amos almost seems hesitant to be the messenger of such doom. He keeps interjecting the phrase “The Lord God is Speaking”, like you would if you were telling someone about the David Duke’s political platform, and as you got the section on racial purity, you kept saying, “Now, this is HIM speaking, not me! I want no part in this!”

Except that Amos has a brilliant moment of courage, when King Jereboam of Israel and Amaziah the priest accuse him of undermining the social fabric of Israel. They assume that he is a prophet for hire (a courtly profession, like a royal adviser, in the Ancient Near East), and they try tell him to move his business south, to Judah, where they go in for that sort of fundamentalism crap. Amos replies, “You think this was part of my career plan? I was not a prophet by profession – I was a shepherd, and a farmer. God ripped me away from my flocks and fields, and sent me here as his mouthpiece. (7:10-17) God does not bring down his hand of justice without warning. When a lion roars, everyone quakes in fear. God has spoken … who can possibly refuse to prophecy? (3:7-8)” (I pulled that second part out of an earlier section, but I think it’s certainly part of Amos’ same line of thought about his vocation as a prophet).

So, why is God raging? What great sin has Israel committed, for which God is bringing the Assyrians and Babylonians to lead them away with fishhooks in their mouth? The Old Testament gives plenty of reasons, and every prophet that God sent brought them fresh reminders of new ways that they had violated the terms of their lease agreement on the land. In Amos, though, the voice is singular in it’s implication.

the poor

Israel has abandoned her poor.

“They sold the innocent for a few pieces of silver, and they traded the needy for a new pair of sandals. They trample on the dirt-covered heads of the poor, they push the destitute away.” (2:7-8)

“Listen, you painted pigs, in Prada and Hermès, living on the coast of Malibu! You oppress the poor; you crush the needy. You whine to your husbands to up the credit limit on your cards, you lunch at Spago and spa at Amadeus, but the time is coming when you will be carried away in a rusted out shopping cart, through the rubble of your gated homes” (4:1-3)

“You hate anyone who speaks the truth to you, anyone who rules justly in your public courts. You levied taxes on the poor, to take away their food and their livelihood, and you used it to build houses of ornate stonework, and vineyards of fine grapes. You will enjoy neither.” (5:10-11)

“Woe to those who live in ease in Zion, to those who feel secure on Mount Samaria … They lie on beds decorated with ivory, the sprawl out on their couches. They eat choice lamb, and the best calves, they sing songs all day, they drink the best wine, and they soothe themselves in fine oils. Israel is in ruins, and they don’t care.” (6:3-6)

It turns out that undermining the social fabric of Israel was exactly what Amos was up to.

spare change

The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! (To Fix my Air Conditioner)

Tuesday afternoon of last week, I was sitting at my computer, working hard on a game of online Warcraft, when I heard a metallic clanging noise resonate from somewhere deep within the condominium.

“Hmm,” I thought, obliterating some 13 year old’s orc army, “That didn’t sound good, and also, why am I not writing a song right now?”

My foreboding sense of dread was confimed a moment later, when I recognized that the temperature was rising swiftly in my studio. I decided that as soon as I was done pwning this total noob, that I was going to act like an adult and go pretend like I knew what was happening with my air conditioning.

It wasn’t working. The external condenser / compressor / whatever the hell it’s called was blowing fine, but the doo-hickey inside the house was dead as a doornail. I shut down the system, stripped to my skivvies, and did what most suburban musicians (who know exactly how long it takes to create a elf hero and five archers) do when something in their house breaks down:

Call someone to fix it.

There were mitigating circumstances that aren’t relevant to this story, but I will tell you that it was Friday afternoon before it was fixed. Erica had the house totally rigged with dark blankets over windows and strategically placed fans. It was still in the mid 90s. Inside. At dusk. It was hot… that’s all I’m saying.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when my new Russian friend showed up, new motor in hand. His nametag read “Jim” and that’s how he introduced himself, but his accent was as thick as Siberian winter, and totally unmistakable. At least to nerds like me who have most of “The Hunt for Red October” script memorized… “There are some things on this ship that don’t react kindly to bullets…” Actually that line was more of a Scottish / Russian accent hybrid, but we’re splitting hairs.

Anyways… as he worked, I kind of hovered over him, just to see what he was doing, and all of a sudden he stopped and looked out into the living room. My six month old, Zion, was sitting in his little play jumper thing in the middle of the floor watching a Baby Einstein video. Baby Einstein, for those of you who are childless, is a series of edutainment videos that contain large, colorful images set to simple classical arrangements. We call it baby crack. Even at only six months, he stares at it as if the origin of mankind was being explained. My father is convinced that there are subliminal messages buried in the videos and that at age seventeen, my children will be pre conditioned to have the sign of the beast tattooed on their foreheads. The reason my Russian friend stopped and stared was because this particular vid was a language video, and the language at the time was Russian.

“Sorry…” he said, “I’m just not used to hearing Russian spoken out loud.”

I asked him where he was from. The Ukraine. How long has he been here? Eleven years. So the wall had fallen before you came? Yes.

I asked him if he still thought of his home country as the Soviet Union or as the Ukraine. He said a little of both. He started telling me that when he was a kid, he believed that the USA was the greatest country on earth. What about now? A good country, he said, but not the greatest. He was apologizing the whole time for his candor… I told him there was nothing to worry about.

He said that he didn’t believe there was a “greatest” country anymore. He believes all nations have good and bad qualities to them. I told him I mostly agreed. I asked him what made him start to get dissillusioned with the US. The war, he answered. Then he said something that absolutely blew my mind, and is the whole reason I am writing this post.

“I told people when it started that it would never work, but they didn’t believe me. I told them that Islamic fascists are trouble and must be dealt with, but that this war would fail, and many Americans and Iraqis would die. I think eventually Afganistan will fall back into Islamic hands.”

How do you know that, I wanted to know.

“Well… I was there.” He seemed embarassed. “I fought in Afganistan. I just know how those people are when you go into their land violently. They’ll die gladly to get you out.”

So, allow me to spell this out for you. This guy, who I know nothing about, and is here in my home performing a service for me and drinking a glass of ice water and generally going about his business fought in the Soviet invasion of Afganistan in the early 80s.

You remember that, right? We sent Rambo over to kick their asses. We armed the Mujahadeen. We cheered and touted the Soviet failure to occupy their land as a great testament to the power of the human spirit and the immenent failure of communism? Remember that? Then, in the chaos that followed, this little group called The Taliban took over and then they became the bad guys when they blew up the WTC. Then we went over and kicked THEIR asses instead of the Soviets and now they’re still fighting us, nearly five years later?

So, just to recap:

80s: Russians Bad, Afgans Good, USA Good.

90s: Russians Getting Better, Afgans Nuetral, USA really good (grunge rulez!).

00s: Russians kinda ok, Afgans Bad, USA still good.

2006: Russian fixing my air-conditioning, Afgans still bad, USA still sorta good.

Is anyone else confused?

So… a few things struck me.

When it comes to issues of war and peace and international relations, I don’t know s**t from shinola, and neither do most of you. Listening to NPR, while educational and stimulating, is not combat experience. I don’t know if Jim from Ukraine knows more then I do about foreign relations or not. What I do know is that he’s seen things that I cannot comprehend. You should have seen the way his eyes shifted when we told me he had been there. They glazed over and I was practically watching him flash back to the desert. When he says that the war is not going to work, I am inclined to believe him, even though I get you I could rattle off a much more comprehensive and articulate argument to the contrary.

Go talk to a veteran who’s seen real bloodshed. You have to pry stories out of them. Both of my grandfathers served. One of them trained bomber pilots in Nebraska. The other flew missions out of England and North Africa and was shot down and spent two years in a POW camp.

Guess which one liked to tell war stories?

This is not a slam to my grandfather who stayed here. He was an older officer, married, and served his nation faithfully and with honor. His stories were not cavalier or boorish. It’s just that he never saw his friends get shot or spill their blood.

I’m not suggesting that you or I should hold our tongues, should we have an opinion on war, or peace, or how we should get from one to the other. I am only suggesting that some of us grew up in the suburbs, and some of us invaded Afganistan in 1980 with the Soviet army. We should think long and hard when we speak of such things.

I also realized that lots of improbable people have lots of interesting and compelling things to say. I am about to confess something to you that will make me sound like an insufferable asshole (my new favorite phrase… sorry, Melody) but I want you to bear with me.

Most of the time, people want to hear what I have to say. I am a leader, and I have gotten pretty good at it. When you’re a good leader, people ask you for your opinion. A lot. Most of the time, I actually kind of wish that they would leave me alone, and that they wouldn’t give my words such weight, because then I could swear more and it wouldn’t be a problem. Fortunately, my close friends have the good sense to put me in my place regularly and they all have potty mouths too, so I sound like June Cleaver.

All this to say that, and it’s unfortunate but true, but I have trouble diciplining myself to allow other people to simply talk, especially in a context where I am supposed to be in charge, like… every time I go to work… for example. Why is it that I have to be taken hostage by a busted air conditioner in order for me to just stop and chat? Well, I’ll tell you why: because my agenda was shot. Because I know dick about air conditioners. Because I was forced to rely on Jim to fix it. He was in charge. We were going to be done when we said we were done… or when cold air started blowing… either way.

People are really interesting. They have had experiences that I haven’t had. They’ve been places I’ve never been. They’re not all articulate, or even smart. They’re often clumsy, and unattractive. Curse this culture for conditioning us to spend time with only people who look or behave a certain way.

As always on a post like this, I don’t have a credible ending. I just have observations. It’s Sunday, so there are a fresh batch of post cards over at Post Secret. Post Secret is often not safe for work and/or offensive. If you have strong feelings regarding certain things… you ought to not click over. However… perhaps you might benefit from the excercise of getting behind someone else’s eyes for a few moments. Maybe after that we should go buy cups of coffee for strangers and see what happens next.

We’re way too insulated in our air conditioned fortresses, I know that for sure.